Policy on Prohibited Discrimination, Harassment, and Retaliation: Hostile Environment Harassment

University of Southern California

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Harassment occurs when verbal, physical, written, electronic, or other conduct based on an individual’s Protected Characteristics is sufficiently severe, persistent, or pervasive that it unreasonably interferes with, limits, or denies that individual’s ability to participate in or benefit from the University’s educational program or activity, employment access, benefits, or opportunities, or other University programs and activities (e.g., campus housing, official University list-servs, University-sponsored platforms), when viewed from both a subjective and objective perspective.


Examples of conduct that may constitute hostile environment harassment based on a Protected Characteristic include but are not limited to:

  • Ridicule, abuse, insults, or derogatory comments that are directly or indirectly based on a protected characteristic.
  • Offensive remarks about an individual’s looks, clothing, hair, or body parts, that relate to a protected characteristic.
  • Offensive comments about an individual’s racial, ethnic, or religious characteristics.
  • Disparaging or offensive remarks about an individual’s gender, gender identity, gender expression, or sexual orientation, whether or not sexual in nature.
  • Disparaging or offensive comments about an individual’s religious beliefs or affiliations, or lack of religious beliefs or affiliations.
  • Expressing negative stereotypes about an individual based on Protected Characteristics (e.g., gender, country of birth, ancestry, citizenship, race), including acts of cultural appropriation.
  • Disparaging, intimidating, or offensive references to an individual’s disability, record of disability, or perceived disability.
  • Disparaging or offensive racial or ethnic remarks, including racial or ethnic slurs, jokes, or epithets.
  • A course of conduct of pursuing, following, waiting, or showing up uninvited at or near places frequented by the Reporting Party.
  • Unwelcome touching and physical conduct.
  • Inappropriate displays of sexually explicit objects, pictures, cartoons, posters, computer screen savers, websites, movies, drawings, or sexual gestures.


The VP for EEO-TIX, in partnership and consultation with relevant stakeholders, may address unprofessional, disrespectful, and/or offensive conduct that: 1) does not rise to the level of creating a hostile environment or a violation of this Policy, or 2) is of a generic nature not clearly based on a Protected Characteristic; and 3) runs counter to the University’s mission and values. Addressing such behaviors will not typically result in the imposition of discipline or other punitive measures under this Policy, but may be addressed through restorative remedial actions, such as coaching, education, and/or effective conflict resolution or other alternative resolution mechanisms. However, the University reserves the right to take any action it deems, in its sole discretion, appropriate in response to such behaviors.